What was legal opinion that changed mind of CSIS director?

Emergencies Act hearings

In late April, I wrote about the government invoking the Emergencies Act.

I pointed out many of the reasons the majority of Liberal and NDP MPs cited to justify voting for invoking the act had since been proven as false and untrue. For example, there was no “act of attempted arson” on behalf of the protestors, nor were any guns found in Ottawa during the protest. I further pointed out the law governing the use of the Emergencies Act requires an independent review must occur after the act is invoked.

For the past 28 days, the Public Order Emergency Commission has been conducting hearings into the invoking of the Emergencies Act. This week took a very interesting turn as cabinet ministers took the stand.

While direct questions to the ministers have yielded little useful information as to how the government believed the legal threshold was met to invoke the Emergencies Act, the normally confidential and private messages shared between ministers has been far more of interest.

One text message between the Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and the Justice Minister David Lametti read as follows: “Police have all of the legal authority they need to enforce the law, they just need to exercise and do their job” That was a message from Minister of Public Safety.

This is particularly relevant as the legal standard to invoke the Emergencies Act is clear. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association describes it: “The Emergencies Act can only be invoked when a situation 'seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada' and when the situation 'cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.'"

The last part is key: “When the situation 'cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada". This was precisely the argument the Opposition, a few Liberal MPs and other academics and legal scholars opposed to invoking the Emergencies Act referenced.

To hear the public safety minister state, privately in a text message to the justice minister, “Police have all of the legal authority they need to enforce the law, they just need to exercise and do their job” is a candid admission they knew this situation could be dealt with under existing Canadian laws.

If you are following the hearings in the news, you may have heard the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, confirm CSIS did not believe the legal standard had been met to invoke the Emergencies Act (as is required under law). You may have also heard that, in spite of this fact, the CSIS director still advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act.

Why would he advise that, given that the legal standard had not been met? The Commission was told by the CSIS director his recommendation was based on a new legal opinion from Justice Canada.

The obvious question is, what was the legal opinion? Unfortunately, the government is claiming privilege and refuses to reveal the legal opinion.

My question this week:

Considering this new information, do you believe use of the Emergencies Act was justified?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free 1-800-665-8711

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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